There have been several changes in decisions around ProgPoW in the past 2 years. The new mining algorithm emerged in response to the advantages of ASICs.
After Ethereum developers dismissed the inclusion of Programmatic Proof of Work (ProgPoW) in an upcoming fork, one of the longest-running controversies in that network environment seems to have ended. However, it is not the first time that the inclusion of the new mining algorithm has been stopped, only to resume the controversy later.
In May 2018, a group of Ethereum miners decided to develop a proposal to combat the advantages of dedicated mining equipment (ASIC) over those that work with graphics cards (GPU). That gave way to the birth of ProgPoW, an algorithm intended as a solution that would ensure decentralization in the network.
Behind the ProgPoW Proposal
This mechanism seeks to “close the efficiency gap available to specialized ASICs”, according to its developers. They explained the intention behind this proposal through the introduction of ProgPoW, or Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 1057.
By referring to EIP 1057, it is possible to see that, to achieve its goal, ProgPoW uses almost all parts of the basic hardware (GPU). Besides, it is tuned for the most common hardware used in the Ethereum network.
The text of the introduction highlights that the new algorithm does not seek to prevent ASICs from making profits in the network mining environment. It rather aims to reduce the superiority that these devices have over the rest. Therefore, the advantage would be just 1.1 or 1.2 compared to GPUs, according to the developers’ calculations.
In summary, the application of ProgPoW to ASICs should allow little opportunity for increased efficiency, compared to that of a GPU. The design of the algorithm focuses on adapting the processing requirements to the resources available on the GPU.
Behind the introduction of the proposal into Ethereum’s development plans are Kristy-Leigh Minehan and Greg Colvin. The former is the CEO of the company Mineority, which specializes in mining with GPU, whilst the latter is a developer recently involved in the Algorand project.
Accusations and Rejection of ProgPoW
The controversy started shortly after the developers made the proposal. The positions against ProgPoW, which existed from the very beginning, were becoming increasingly strong as the months elapsed.
Even Nvidia, one of the leading GPU manufacturing companies worldwide, faced accusations for allegedly financing the proposal. One of the first criticisms that the ProgPoW project received was against Minehan, for her supposed links to Nvidia.
According to the accusation, the new algorithm responded to the corporate interests of Minehan and the manufacturer, rather than to the decentralization principles that its developers had stated.
Alexander Levin, who opposed the proposal since it emerged, was in charge of accusing Minehan. According to him, whilst he was working on the Ethos project with Minehan, the CEO of Mineority herself flaunted her relationship with Nvidia. Levin claimed that Minehan even said that Nvidia and its engineers were working closely with her to optimize the hash rate of Nvidia GPUs.
Some other members of the Ethereum community allege that ProgPoW is the real threat to the decentralization of the network. Others have simply stated that they are against forking Ethereum to include a new mining algorithm. Meanwhile, Levin himself stated that implementing ProgPoW could compromise the network in the face of 51% attacks.
By Alexander Salazar